Since the draw was made back in December, Real Madrid v Manchester United has been the most anticipated tie. It has been publically advertised as ‘the perfect match’ by Sky Sports in recent weeks and I couldn’t agree more; it has the ingredients to be a really tasty encounter. There are two eagerly anticipating individual battles to be fought out as well.
Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson have had very interesting clashes in the past, with the Portuguese coming out on top on more occasions. His tactical brilliance has become one of Sir Alex’s very few weaknesses it seems, with the experienced scot finding it difficult to defeat any side Mourinho puts out. Since Mourinho’s Porto defeated United in the Champions League over two legs at Old Trafford in 2004 (and the famous celebration of the Portuguese manager running down the old Trafford touchline); Mourinho has tasted victory 14 times against Manchester United and Sir Alex and only lost twice. But the 2 time Champions League winner has never defeated United in the Champions League at Old Trafford, drawing 1-1 with Porto and losing 2-0 when in charge of Inter Milan back in 2009 when the two characters last met.
Sir Alex will also have to keep one of his former employees from tormenting his full backs in Cristiano Ronaldo. The former Red Devil faces United for the first time since he departed for the Spanish capital and has been in everlasting form since moving to the Bernabeu in 2009, scoring an incredible 182 goals in 179 appearances for the 9 times European Champions. He has been repetitively been ripping apart defences in Spain and it seems that the 28 year old is the best player in the world at the moment (yes even better then Messi). It is clear to see Ronaldo is playing the best football of his career and is at his peak; the only question is will his emotions alter his performance against his former club? No matter how Ronaldo is mentally, it is going to take a real effort from the Manchester United full backs and wingers to keep the Portugal captain quiet over the 90 minutes, but I’m sure he will have some sort of impact at some stage and get a chance or two.
With the first leg being at the Bernabeu, United are going to have to been defensively on top of their game as Madrid will look to attack quickly and fatally to try and get them in the best position for when the sides re-meet in Manchester in 3 weeks time. Mourinho’s side will in no doubt have most possession of the ball, but will have to be aware of the attacking mentality that Sir Alex puts his players into. They will be aiming to not only stay in the tie, but to also grab an away goal to make Mourinho’s task that much tougher in the second leg. There will be extra pressure on Madrid to perform, as their domestic challenge for back-to-back La Liga titles is virtually over as the league title looks to be inevitably returning to the Nou Camp and Barcelona. The media in Spain have also constantly reported trouble in Madrid, with Conflicts between Mourinho and his players or the boardroom hitting the headlines and the consistent rumour that the ‘Special One’ is to return to England once he leaves the Madrid hotseat. United look to have the Premier League all wrapped up after defeating Everton on Sunday and City yet again dropping points at Southampton 24 hours before. The gap between United and their noisey neighbours is now 12 points, and many have written City off. All these factors will hopefully contribute to a really engaging and exciting tie and hopefully one we can savour for weeks to come.
My prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Manchester United